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Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

My book of the week: talk about blasphemy!

Not great. My list seems so much more ambitious than I thought.  Some things I’ve done:

  • Because of a cold, for almost a week I drank endless cups and pots of herbal teas and infusions, meaning, I got plenty of water.  Now, not so much.
  • Sleep – still averaging 5-ish hours. Not good at all.  The discovery of late-night Star Trek TNG on this odd Christian cable TV channel has me mesmerized.  I love the show, it’s never on here, and I find it so incredibly strange that it’s METV that airs it.  I’m sure it’s a “recruiting tactic” – they’re also the only channel broadcasting American football, and quite a lot of it – rare and popular pastimes for certain populations.  I wonder if they actually know what they’re broadcasting – the futuristic Star Trek world is yes, quite an optimistic one, but the show regularly presents messages of tolerance (thinly veiled themes on gay rights and euthanasia come to mind) – basic respect for acceptance of the traditions and values of other cultures, whether or not we agree with them.  Things I feel that evangelicals clearly oppose.  It’s a very liberal show.  Squeezed between shows like the 700 Club, Harvest, and Christian rock shows, it’s so entirely bizarre for me, a firm and unwavering atheist, to watch.  This channel has these shows where a Christian “psychic” talks to spirits of dead family members in front of a studio audience.  There’s even a show geared to converting Jews, with a host who is a formerly-Jewish, now devout Christian evangelical, spinning the gospel for the “chosen people.”  Anthropology.  All I can say.  I’m happy for TNG.  Not sure it’s OK that I’m patronizing them.

    This kiss between Riker and the self-identified female “degenerate mutant” from a gender-less species.

  • I have, however, been seeing friends – twice per week is realistic, and as it’s emotionally quite pressing, it seems to be a high priority for me.
  • I went on a date. I thought it went very well, but I may have received the brush off.  Waiting.  It’s OK, life goes on.  The effort is important.
  • I read a whole novel in excellent speed – fantastic feeling. Though not really my cup of tea, I’d been putting off reading the cult-classic, Good Omens.  Was a nice way to pass the weekend.
  • Creativity and culture – I have made a concerted effort to stop and notice the art displayed in the windows of the galleries in my area, and I did actually attend a group exhibition opening a couple weeks ago.  I’ve been thinking about pulling out my clarinet – back in high school I wasn’t a bad player, and I did bring my excellent Buffet Festival with me when I moved to Israel.  AND I DID PAINT! Last week I got out a bunch of expensive Italian ink I purchased years ago, made lovingly with things like real gold flake, and I found a box of old thick “panda” oil pastels of my grandfather’s, a prominent Israeli artist until his death 11 years ago.  All shades of his favorite color – blue.  Here are some of the results, taken on a crappy camera phone.

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    A sort of water-soaked inky gouache, and a pointillism landscape made with an incomplete set of crayola markers, inspired by the “International Naive and Primitive Art Gallery” near me. You can’t see the gold flake on the left, but it’s pretty cool up close. And yes, the inks came complete with a quill – very difficult to use, hence I abandoned it.

  • Bills – not being paid. Weird.  I have the money.  I can’t open the mail – it’s overwhelming. It’s quite urgent. And pressing on me.  Psychological oddity with me, also keeps me from cleaning my room for months.  Though I make a decent effort on the house, the kitchen, public things, some other tasks are near impossible to internalize.
  • I’ve been pretty successful at shutting the computer at night and not thinking of work, so I’m proud of myself in that respect.  I do need to move forward on expanding my professional goals.

So there is the update.  A rather mundane blog entry, but as I felt I needed to keep up the writing momentum, here it is in all its glorious dullness.

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OMFG they must be joking. That’s what I first thought when I saw the headline in the Green Prophet: Jordan’s Crazy Star Trek Park Will be a Cleantech Showcase.  A Star Trek theme park?  My kind of vacation.  As some of you know, I’m a bit of a nut about Star Trek.  Apparently King Abdullah II is a huge huge huge Star Trek fan, too, and he even managed to get himself a role as an extra in Star Trek Voyager.  So now he’s gone and found over a billion dollars to build a Star Trek theme park in Aqaba?  Meters from Eilat, Israel’s year-round scuba-snorkel-spa resort-city?  Umm.  Wow.

Here are the related articles.  Have a blast.  Check out some of the titles (giggle giggle). I’m sort of in shock.

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Saint Paul's Cathedral during the London Blitz

I have gotten to the point where I cannot distinguish one day from another.  I didn’t realize it was Thursday – I only knew I had to be at work at 12 pm and that there was a lecture about Connie Willis‘s heroes at 9 pm at the Olamot Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival (sponsored by the Tolkien Society of Israel and the Israeli Science Fiction and Fantasy Guild).  I went.  It was the most normal thing I did this month, which is really saying something as a larger collection of fashion-clueless, absurdly costumed geeks I haven’t seen in a long time.  Tomorrow is the first day off in over a week.  The next day I work at 12 pm.  The next day I have a doctor’s appointment.  That’s how it goes.

Why have I become this clueless zombie?  Work and Passover.  We all complain about work.  Yet, I don’t hate what I do.  It’s just quite physically taxing, and my hours are long.  It can be demoralizing being a glorified waitress sometimes, but I’m getting over it.  I hope.  I’m quite proud of myself, I do have to admit.  It’s Passover, and pre-holiday wine sales are madness.  Wine sales the day before and of Passover are the highest of the year.  In fact I think most of the wine in the country is sold in those few days – but don’t quote me – I would need to find the stats.  In any case, I played my part admirably.  My sales for my winery were beyond fantastic, and for the most part, I had a great time.  Along with the wine bar work, I believe I worked I worked 45 hours in 4 days.  The haze I’m in is interesting.  The meaning of life, or rather, the search thereof, eludes me these days.  I don’t feel like reading at all.  I feel like I’m floating and not quite living.  Things like bills and taxes can wait, and I’m glad I’m not freaking…but this zombie phase has got to end.  Soon.  I want to look forward to reading a book, seeing friends with any sort of regularity, putting at least some attention into my studies (which I’ve basically abandoned for the last 3 weeks due to exhaustion), and perhaps…career, men, the future…and especially not feeling tired all the time.  Just realized it’s kind of ironic – my working like a dog, really slaving (worked a real 16+ hour day for the first time in forever) during THE holiday that celebrates freedom from bondage.  Yep.  Just my luck.

For the moment, I’m glad I did something other than sleep, watch reruns of Extreme Home Makeover (artificially-enduced emotional catharsis), and work.  It was weird paying 30 shekels for a 50 minute presentation on my favorite author that basically turned into a conversation with the audience of 20 that veered off at one point to Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel.  Yeah.  My kind of people.  I have to say, it was worth it to sit in a room with several others who had read, not even just heard of, Connie Willis, in Israel.  I adore Willis, and everyone who loves a good long read should pick up both Black Out and All Clear.  Especially if you’re a WWII buff.  It’s heartfelt storytelling crossed with extraordinary research – historical science fiction at its very, very best.

The bar at the corner of my street is playing dance/trans music so loud, I can feel the bass through the floor.  I live on the fourth floor.  And I’m at least 5 buildings down.  I don’t even play my own music this loud (relatively speaking – as it now sounds in my home).  Ugh.  Popcorn, green tea, and Extreme Home Makeover may be in the cards tonight.  Oh well.  I’ll have to find earphones first.  No rest for the weary.

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USS Voyager's Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her daily replicated cup 'o' joe

There are a bunch of news stories and interesting new-science factoids I’ve learned from friends recently all related to food.  Fascinating stuff.  Again, as it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, I feel more than a bit blocked – pressure to make this an awesome, stellar, better-than-ever, award-winning kinda entry.  It will be what it is.  This is interesting stuff.  Process as you will. (LOTS of cool videos below, too).

A real end to world hunger? Maybe?  Think again…

Child eating Plumpy'nut

Last week the New York Times published an article by Andrew Rice about Plumpy’nut, a new peanut-based food product that has already saved the lives of many severely malnourished children in Africa, Haiti, Asia, and who knows where else.  It’s basically a peanut butter packed with lots of other nutrients that can very quickly bring people back from the brink of death.  This is not a small feat, and I am certain of the fact that this is a great invention.  The issues as I can see it are these: the patent, the cost, the actual (long term) effectiveness.

  1. Patent: can one company brand and profit off of this kind of product and its recipe? Pumpy’nut is a trademark owned by Nutriset, a French company.  The inventor, French pediatrician Andre Briend apparently never meant to create a brand and profit off of this product.  AND there are two other companies trying to do similar work.  In my eyes, can such an important product be “owned”?  Can you patent peanut butter?
  2. Cost: it’s not cheap.  A two-month supply of Plumpy’nut for one child costs $60.  That’s a dollar a day — pretty steep in the food world, especially for such a simply product.  AND the main customer of Plumpy’nut (90%)  is UNICEF.  Sucks.  Essentially our tax dollars going to a private company.  We need to feed the world.  But it’s jacked up miracle peanut butter, folks.  It echoes the situation with AIDS medicine going to poor countries — they need it desperately, but do companies want to let go of their product at prices much closer to cost? Nope.  But people are dying…how do put a price on life?  Tricky.  But should it be?
  3. The long term: the company has marketed Plumpy’nut as a cure for hunger.  But is it?  The problem is that the vast majority of “hunger” in the world is not acute malnutrition, the kind we see on the news and celebrity TV appeals – results of famines, war, major ecological disaster.  Most people afflicted by hunger suffer chronically.  They are not on the very edge of death’s doorstep.  They suffer daily, whether a condition of their poverty, agriculture failure, lack of certain essential nutrients in the food they do have, etc.

Here is an excellent Huffington Post article written by Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Read it!

Replicator: Star Trek‘s solution to world Hunger

Ever heard of 3D printing?  I have for a while, but it was difficult for me to picture.  Well, I found some videos, and I’ll post one below for your viewing pleasure.  Basically, there are printers that make objects – and they work just like real paper printers.  It’s fascinating.

Ever heard of a food replicator?  This is a technology that is used in the invented scifi world of Star Trek.  Much like a 3D printer but working on super-futuristic advanced-science principles, this machine can create objects (including food) from any type of other matter by recombining its subatomic particles.  If it has the recipe on file, that is, whether it be for a cup of Earl Gray tea, the Klingon favorite Gagh, a ray gun, a dry martini, or a clarinet.  Scientists over at MIT (in a project called Cornucopia) have been trying to create a real life food replicator.  So far, it doesn’t work on such an advanced level (this futuristic contraption is really just as complex, if not much more complex than the Star Trek transporter).  As far as I can tell, MIT’s Digital Fabricator works by arranging an array of raw ingredients that are designed to print out 3D food to the sub millimeter level.  But no steak dinners here.  They’re working on chocolates and pastries – things that can be assembled, not whipped up out of thin air by recombining protons.  Goodness, I would kill to eat a real hot steak – faux beef that is exactly like real beef – without the killing…can you imagine that???

MIT's Digital Fabricator

Still, it’s interesting (and in my opinion, important) that this kind of technology is being seriously thought about.  It’s another example of contemporary science being influenced by scifi, our imagining of our better future where hunger is unimaginable.  Take a look at a clip of one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, including a demonstration of a replicator:

Here is a video on 3D printing.  Pretty cool stuff.  I like that everything is reusable.  Much like a real replicator.

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